Drugs & Health Blog

E-Cigarettes: What You Need to Know

The NIDA Blog Team

Ever since e-cigarettes first appeared, people have debated whether they’re a positive development. Teens are weighing in: A recent study found that 73 percent of teens think e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes.

What does the scientific evidence say?

Do e-cigs have benefits?

  • Protecting the lungs? E-cigarettes don’t burn tobacco, so some people think they may not be as harmful to the lungs as other tobacco products. It’s too early to be sure that’s true.
  • Fewer deaths? Research has found that smokers who switch to e-cigs might be consuming fewer harmful chemicals than those found in tobacco. So some think that e-cigs might reduce the number of smoking-related deaths.
  • Help people quit smoking? Some studies have said that e-cigs may help people quit using tobacco completely, when they switch to vaping. Other research has found that e-cigs may help people consume less tobacco.

But what about the risks?

  • Addiction potential. Some researchers worry that e-cigs have a lot more dangers than benefits. For starters, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, just like tobacco does. Nicotine can lead to addiction.
  • Inhaling metals. A recent study found that certain e-cig brands contain high levels of metals like nickel and chromium, which might come from the heating coils. When these metals are inhaled, they can be toxic (poisonous) and potentially lead to cancer.
  • Gateway drug. Several studies have found that some teens would not have used tobacco if they hadn’t used e-cigs first. 
  • Delivering toxic chemicals. The liquid in e-cigs—whether or not it’s flavored—can be toxic.

The bottom line? For people looking to quit using tobacco, e-cigarettes might be helpful. But if you’re a teen who doesn’t smoke, they could eventually just hook you on tobacco. We’ll share updates on these tough questions as researchers discover more facts. 

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.

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